After seemingly endless celebrations of the 50th anniversary of BMW M, the performance division of the Bavarian brand, has announced the start of testing prototypes with all-electric powertrains. They are based on the BMW i4 M50, but come with four electric motors, a new driving dynamics control system and a revised chassis setup.
While electric performance models from BMW, including the i4 M50 and iX M60have already seen the world, with i7 M70 due in 2023, we’re yet to see a full-scale M EV. That will change in the future, and BMW M will do its best to prepare for the all-electric era with the aim of preserving the “emotional driving experience” in future zero-emission sports cars.
The first test vehicle to develop “innovative drivetrain and chassis control systems” is based on BMW i4 M50. However, it does bring some unique features. Starting with the exterior design, the prototype gets a transplanted face M3 / M4 with an internal combustion engine, a wider body and a special livery. Surprisingly, the massive grille and bumper air intakes remain open, likely to help cool the EV’s powertrain and other mechanical components. The interior of the prototype has also been modified, with measuring technology that makes it look like a “rolling test lab”.
More important changes are hidden under the body. BMW M added a quad-core electric motor with an integrated motion control system. Thus, in the new M xDrive fully variable all-wheel drive system, each wheel is controlled independently of the central control unit based on a series of calculations. The suspension is also modified, with front struts sourced from M3 / M4 bringing higher torsional stiffness.
The automaker hasn’t revealed the total power output of the four-engine i4 prototype, but we’re expecting some pretty impressive numbers as they talk about “unprecedented levels of performance.” In the official video, we see the car doing a donut tank queue, although that part appears to have been created with CGI. Let’s remind that standard i4 M50 which is also pictured in the video, has twin 536 hp electric motors. (400 kW / 544 hp) and 586 lb-ft (795 Nm) of torque. As for range, recuperating energy from all four motors during braking will put some juice back into the high-voltage battery.
BMW claims that “much higher cornering speeds can be achieved, even on rain-soaked or snow-covered roads, thanks to the drive’s particularly sensitive torque metering and conversion without perceptible lag.” In this context, Dirk Hecker, head of the company’s development department BMW M GmbH, said: “Electrification opens up completely new degrees of freedom for us to create typical M dynamics. And we can already see that we can make the most of this potential so that our high-performance sports cars continue to offer the typical M and incomparable combination of dynamics, maneuverability and precision in a local, emission-free future.”
We don’t know if the four-engine BMW i4 M50 will make it to a production model, but the technology it showcases will likely find its way into future BMW M models. Keep in mind that the automaker will soon serial version of XM as the new flagship that comes with a V8-based hybrid powertrain.